Year Released : 2017
Directors : Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin and Karyn Kusama
Cast : Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk, Michael Dyson, Sheila Vand
Mike Doyle, Susan Jacobs, Angela Trimbur, Kyle Allen, Peter DaCunha, Peyton Kennedy and Jonathan Watton
I’m not a massive fan of anthology films and could probably only think of one or two out of the ten or so that I’ve reviewed that were actually any good. The problem is that they’re so inconsistent. You’d have one that was brilliant, an ok one and then the next few would be utter dross. One such example is “The ABCs of Death”, which is one of just a very small handful of films that I had to turn off because it was that bad.
If there is one thing I hate though, it’s a gimmick in films that isn’t backed up. Let’s face it, this film is trying very hard to push that all segments were written and directed by women, but to me that doesn’t guarantee quality, and if anything it feels almost like they’re desperately seeking attention. I hope it turns out to be a case of four great mini-films that are well directed, rather than a desperate attempt at exploiting the growing female empowerment moment in Hollywood.
The Box – Danny, his sister Jenny, and mother are on the train home after Christmas shopping when he asks a mysterious man what is in the box that he is carrying. He eventually shows Danny what is in the box but it completely shocks him, even to the point where he refuses to eat once he gets home. Several days pass and Danny still hasn’t eaten anything, and a trip to the doctor doesn’t help as he has developed a very morbid view on life. Jenny then starts showing the same signs of lack of appetite, and then his father. What about the mother?
The Birthday Party – Mary is planning a birthday party when she finds her husband dead. She hides it from her daughter and creepy maid Carla. Soon friends start arriving for the party, and fortunately a man in a panda costumes arrives. Mary convinces him to part with the costume so that she can hide her husband’s body. How long can it last?
Don’t Fall – Four friends go on a hike into the middle of a hilly desert. One night they hear a noise and Paul goes to investigate, he finds nothing and it ultimately turns out to be a practical joke, but maybe there was actually something making a noise afterall. Gretchen is cornered in a cave by a demonic creature, and when one of the rest of the group investigates she is slowly transformed into a wolf like creature. One of them tries to drive the rest of the group off, but they refuse to leave, what could go wrong with that decision?
“Her Only Living Son” – Cora’s only son is about to turn 18, but his rebellious nature is getting out of hand as he pulls all of the finger nails off of a girl at school. After becoming depressed as her son starts coming home with blood stained clothes, the mailman reveals that Andy is actually the son of the Devil, and his 18th birthday will see him gain his full powers.
So, my thoughts
Realistically I think this film got slightly more attention than it deserved because all of the directors are female, or more to the point the insistence of them making out that having four female directors was special enough to warrant watching, regardless of how good or bad it is. There is a large female empowerment move in Hollywood at the moment in which movies are trying purposefully to build strong female characters, even if they add little to the story. Don’t let the fact that all of the directors are female cloud your judgement like some other reviewers have, this is a poorly made anthology movie.
Making a point of saying that all parts of your film are directed women feels more like a gimmick more than actually something to be lauded. If it was a case where it was genuinely tricking not to be a gimmick then they wouldn’t have made it so heavy in the advertising.
Anthology films are ones that are a bit tricky to review. In theory each should be reviewed in their individual parts, but also as a whole. That’s one problem, and another is that the overall film is only as strong as it’s weakest part, and this certainly has a weak part.
“The Birthday Party” sticks out like a sore thumb given it’s different tone compared to the other three stories. In many ways this is far closer to a comedy than the horror of the other three parts, and infact there is nothing horrific about it at all. If anything, it is a female “Weekend at Bernies”, but it lacks of the heart of that film, or even it’s lesser funny sequel. It looks decent, but is otherwise void of any real greatness.
Other than that the three other stories are reasonable, if a little devoid of any real engrossing or overly interesting elements. “The Box” is arguably the most intriguing, but even then it feels very limited and restricted. There is also a massive issue I have with this section of the film that I will spoil in the next paragraph, so you have been warned.
*SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS PARAGRAPH ONLY* So basically “The Box” turned out to contain something mystical, but invisible, that infected the mind of Danny. As time goes he spreads it to the other members of the family and it turns out that they have all become cannibals, and the mother happily has most of her arm and leg eaten by the rest of them. It was an ending that I didn’t see coming to be fair, but it was ruined by the fact that the character doesn’t have any trouble bending down, walking or anything else after this happens. If your leg was eaten then you wouldn’t be able to walk perfectly normally. *SPOILER ENDS*
The anthology is full of little mistakes like that (another shows the reflection of the lighting rig in the eyes of two characters when there is a close up), and it shows that whilst efforts have been made to make the four parts look sleek and stylish, they seem to have let standards slip elsewhere and in truth, the only one of the four that I somewhat enjoyed was “Don’t Fall”.
“Don’t Fall” isn’t unique in any way really, but it is the closest thing to a traditional horror movie in there, and the transformation into a beast is quite interesting to watch.
Stating that you only have female directors is a clear attempt at promoting when realistically there isn’t a story there. It is the same as advertising that your film has a specific gimmick and putting it up in flashing neon lights, but having very little else to back it up. Yes, it’s great that women are getting their chance to direct, but don’t highlight it simply to try and gain a wider audience.
“XX” isn’t a great anthology movie. None of the stories are scary, and one is just a female, unfunny version of “A Weekend at Bernies”. I would go as far as calling that segment trash, but it’s not far off of it.
There are far better anthology films out there.